Advice for New Nurses

Nurse holding hands of patient

The real growth curve for any new nurse starts the minute he or she graduates from nursing school and clocks in for that first shift. While your LVN or RN program provides you ample clinical hours: there’s nothing quite like the shock and thrill of your first professional nursing job. The initial months are going to be tough, so we thought some advice for “nube” nurses and LVNs would be helpful.

Ask for Help

If you’re working in a hospital environment, your nurse preceptor or supervisor understands that you will need support and advice. It’s a given. They are more experienced than you are and expecting that you will need a lot of mentoring and guidance. There’s no shame in asking for a lot of help along the way, especially in the first few weeks and months of your job. If your preceptor or supervisor isn’t a big fan of answering questions, find someone on staff who is.

Asking for advice, guidance, and survival tips is as much a part of your new role as a nurse as patient care. It’s also not something that any school can really teach you. Remember that you have the training that you need, but now it’s time for you to learn how to learn on the job. You got this!

Slow Down

The minute you feel like you’re spiraling out of control, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you’re new at this, that within probably six months, this whole routine will become second nature to you. For now: develop personal organizational systems that work for you. Maybe you need to create your own report sheet to stay on top of med schedules and assessments. Set up tasks in terms of priorities and know that everyone has a hard time multitasking when it gets busy.

Take deep breaths. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. What new nurse doesn’t? Don’t blame yourself for not being the best nurse on earth in the early days.

All Nurses Go Through This

If there’s anything you should take solace in, it’s this: all new nurses go through the same terror and frustration that you are experiencing right now. There’s no way to avoid it. Your job is important and stressful. No nurse in the history of the profession had the option of avoiding feeling inexperienced and inadequate. Just ask one of the senior nurses for their early war stories and they’ll all tell you the same thing (or at least a version of it): it’s hard at first, it gets better, this will all become routine sooner than you think!

Form a New Nurse Support Group

Take advantage of your network and the amazing connections you make as a student. Form a group of three or four nurses you went to school with and set up a regular get together where you can offer each other support and love. No one knows better what you’re going through than they do, right? Before you graduate: make a pact with your closest nursing school pals to stay in touch and keep each other aware of your progress. A little commiseration goes a long, long way in that first year.

Dealing with Difficult Patients is Part of the Job

The truth is that nursing is an emotional and intuitive job. You’re not going to get along with all of your patients, especially the difficult ones. “Difficult” is relative; one nurse’s definition of a difficult patient isn’t necessarily yours. Follow some basic guidelines for how to get through the moments of friction, especially on long, tedious, challenging shifts.


Letting a tough patient tell you about their emotional and physical journey turns you into their ally.

Understand Their Fear

While the hospital environment is familiar to you, it isn’t to most patients. An angry patient may just be a scared one. A little comfort could diffuse a tense moment.

Set Boundaries

No: they can’t curse at you, throw things (tantrums or anything else), or treat you inhumanely. Find helpful language that is respectful and reminds them that withstanding overt abuse is not a part of the job description.

Use yes/no questions that don’t require a lot of engagement on their part but signals that they’ve stepped over the line (“Do you need a moment to compose yourself?”, “Did you really mean to call me that?”, “Should I come back later when you’re calmer?” etc.)

Nursing Empathy

The healthcare environment is all about patient care. Find moments where you can show even the toughest patients that you care about their well being. Take deep breaths, check your body language, give yourself some extra time before heading back into the room, and do little things, like handing them tissues if they look upset. You’re not going to go through a career without dealing with aggressive or temperamental people, so build your empathy toolkit now.

Nursing is not a job for the faint of heart, but it is one of the most important and rewarding careers out there. We’ve been training new nurses and LVNs in California for over 20 years. Reach out to us today to set up an informational chat about how quickly our accelerated program will get you in the field and working.


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